Transformation and Idea Formation in the Poetry of Seo Jeong-ju
An interesting feature of “Midang” Seo Jeong-ju’s poetry is his poetic transformation.Midang said himself that his study of literary expression was a process of being influenced by the poets who went before him and then trying to overcome their influence. Accordingly his poetry draws a kind of “poetic contour map,” creating a position for Midang as a literary heir to Korean poetry. There is more than meets the eye in this confession of the process of composing poetry as combining passion for original creativity and studying the poets who came before. This statement served to make the absolute core of Midang Seo Jeong-ju’s sense of identity as a poet visible. It reflects the “traditionalism” and “original creativity” which made up the two pillars of modern Korean poetics, and the way in which they served as the most central “aesthetic norms” in the process through which his poetic world unfolded.
The linguistic expression in Midang’s first collection of poetry, Hwasajip, has at its base the “tradition” that he inherited through his study, but the life force contained within that expression is laid bare through a kind of Nietzschean physical, sensory revealing. The main characteristic of Midang’s poetic expression is its freewheeling nature, with image, musicality, direct language, and poetic context going back and forth between the lines. In terms of form, these characteristics are very clearly closely related to the formal character of the poets he cited as having influenced his work. However, rather than being based on his incredible technical ability, Midang’s originality lies in his sense of identity as a poet constantly tackling the question of “What is poetry?” Having opened his eyes to “loving one’s fate” through Nietzsche’s concept of the “human,” it is clear to see that the core of Midang’s poetry is taken up by his collection Hwasajip. In the transformation of his poetry then, rather than seeing a transformation in terms of form, we see a change in his fundamental outlook on life.